NHL Top 10 Teams Entering Week 26
Four teams have clinched a spot in the 2018 NHL playoffs: The Nashville Predators, the Winnipeg Jets, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Boston Bruins. The playoffs begin in two weeks this Wednesday. I didn't do a top 10 list for week 25. These are the top 10 teams for week 26:
#10 Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets 10-game winning streak was snapped on Saturday Night by the St. Louis Blues in a 2-1 loss. Columbus's offense has played a lot better lately. Artemi Panarin continues to lead the pack in Columbus with 69 points (25 goals and 44 assists).
Sergei Bobrovsky recorded a 33-save shutout in Thursday Night's 4-0 win against the Florida Panthers. That is his fifth shutout of the season. His record so far this season is 34-22-5 with a .922 save percentage and a 2.37 GAA. The Blue Jackets record so far this season is 42-29-5 with 89 points. Week 24 ranking: 10.
#9 Washington Capitals: The Capitals have won three games in a row and they are 7-3 in their last 10. Philipp Grubauer has started the past couple of games for the Capitals because Braden Holtby suffered a lower-body injury, but Holtby will be back on Monday Night for the Capitals against the New York Rangers.
Grubauer recorded a 39-save shutout in a 1-0 win on Thursday Night on the road against the Detroit Red Wings. That is his third shutout of the season and Grubauer's record so far this season is 13-9-3 with a .923 save percentage and a 2.35 GAA.
Holtby being out for the Capitals a little bit may not be a bad thing for his psyche. He has had a rough season. Holtby's record so far this season is 31-15-4 with a .906 save percentage and a 3.06 GAA. Washington's record so far this season is 44-24-7 with 95 points. Week 24 ranking: 9.
#8 Vegas Golden Knights: The Golden Knights are starting to show signs of fatigue and they only have a six-point lead on the San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division. Vegas lost 2-1 in overtime on Thursday Night on the road against the San Jose Sharks. If Vegas continues to loses games, they could fall out of the number one seed in the Pacific Division and face a possible red-hot Anaheim Ducks team in the first-round or a tough Los Angeles Kings team as well.
Vegas's record in the month of March is 6-4-2. It is just ordinary for the Golden Knights at this time of year. William Karlsson leads the Golden Knights in goals with 39. Jonathan Marchessault leads Vegas with 69 points (24 goals and 45 assists). Marc-Andre Fleury's record so far this season is 27-11-4 with a .930 save percentage and a 2.15 GAA, along with four shutouts.
Backup Malcolm Subban's record so far this season is 11-3-2 with a .917 save percentage and a 2.51 GAA. The Golden Knights still have one of the best goal differentials in the NHL at 46 (250 goals scored/204 goals given up). Vegas's record so far this season is 47-21-7 with 101 points. Week 24 ranking: 5.
#7 Pittsburgh Penguins: Losing 4-1 on Tuesday Night on the road against the New York Islanders and 4-3 in overtime at home on Friday Night against the New Jersey Devils was tough for the Penguins to swallow, but Pittsburgh won 5-3 on Wednesday Night against the Montreal Canadiens and 5-4 in overtime on Sunday Afternoon against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Matt Murray returned from his concussion on Tuesday Night. Murray has played well ever since coming back. He made 36 saves against the Islanders, 30 saves against the Devils, and 41 saves against the Flyers.
Evgeni Malkin continues to light up the lamp for the Pittsburgh Penguins and he has 42 on the season, along with 50 assists. He is seven points behind Edmonton's Connor McDavid for the most in the NHL, but Malkin is only two goals behind Washington's Alex Ovechkin for the most in the NHL.
Derrick Brassad is starting to fit in with the Penguins and he scored a goal against the Canadiens and the Flyers. Pittsburgh has scored 251 goals so far this season and that is the third most in the NHL. The Penguins record so far this season is 43-27-6 with 92 points. Week 24 ranking: 6.
#6 San Jose Sharks: The San Jose Sharks have won seven consecutive games and they are only six points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the Pacific Division lead. Evander Kane has scored seven goals and recorded five assists in 12 games with the Sharks ever since being traded from the Buffalo Sabres.
Kane scored two goals in Saturday Night's 5-1 win against the Calgary Flames. San Jose has different players contributing every night. Joe Pavelski (19 goals and 41 assists) and Brent Burns (11 goals and 49 assists) each have 60 points for the Sharks. Martin Jones is a solid rock between the pipes for San Jose.
His record so far this season is 28-18-6 with a .918 save percentage and a 2.44 GAA, along with four shutouts. Backup Aaron Dell's record so far this season is 15-5-3 with a .913 save percentage and a 2.66 GAA, along with four shutouts.
The Sharks have a 29 goal differential (232 goals scored/203 goals given up) so far this season. San Jose's record so far this season is 43-23-9 with 95 points. Week 24 ranking: not ranked.
#5 Toronto Maple Leafs: Toronto has won two consecutive games ever since Auston Matthews returned from a shoulder injury. He has one goal and one assist since his return. The offense looks more functional with him in the lineup.
Toronto has scored nine goals in their last two games. The Maple Leafs have scored 255 goals so far this season which is the second most in the NHL. Toronto has given up 213 goals so far this season and their goal differential is 42. The Maple Leafs record so far this season is 45-23-7 with 97 points. Week 24 ranking: 7.
#4 Winnipeg Jets: The Jets have clinched a spot in the 2018 postseason after defeating the Nashville Predators at home 5-4 on Sunday Night. Winnipeg is in the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-2015 season, where they were swept by the Anaheim Ducks.
The Jets have a much better hockey team this time around and they will be one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 32 shots against the Predators. His record so far this season is 39-11-9 with a .924 save percentage and a 2.36 GAA, along with six shutouts.
Winnipeg is tied with the Boston Bruins for the second best goal differential in the NHL at 56 (250 goals scored/196 goals given up). The Jets record so far this season is 46-19-10 with 102 points. Week 24 ranking: 4.
#3 Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning have some room for concern right now. They have a good chance of slipping out of the top seed in the Atlantic Division. The Boston Bruins are only two points behind them in the standings and also have a game in hand.
Tampa Bay already lost to Boston once this season and they play each other again on Thursday in Boston. Andrei Vasilevskiy hasn't had the same touch like he had in the beginning of the season.
Despite making 35 saves for Tampa Bay in Thursday Night's win on the road against the New York Islanders, he gave up six goals. Nikita Kucherov (37 goals and 58 assists, 95 points) is now four points behind Connor McDavid for the league lead in the NHL.
The Lightning aren't getting quality depth from the third or fourth line lately. It showed in Saturday Night's 2-1 loss on the road against the New Jersey Devils. Tampa Bay was swept by New Jersey in the regular season 3-0 and they could meet in the first-round of the playoffs.
The Lightning have the best goal differential so far this season at 59 (272 goals scored/213 goals given up). Tampa Bay's record so far this season is 51-20-4 with 106 points. Week 24 ranking: 1.
#2 Boston Bruins: Brad Marchand scored the game-winning goal in overtime for the fifth time this season in Sunday Night's 2-1 win on the road against the Minnesota Wild. Boston is becoming one of the most dangerous teams in the NHL.
The Bruins are just two points behind the Lightning for the Atlantic Division lead, along with a game in hand. Boston already beat them once and they will meet two more times this season, including Thursday's matchup in Boston.
Boston is tied for the second-best goal differential in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets at 56 (245 goals scored/189 goals given up). Boston's defense is one of the best in the NHL. They rarely give up odd-man rushes.
Patrice Begeron recorded two assists on Sunday Night in his first game back since February 25 when he injured his foot. The Bruins record so far this season is 47-17-10 with 104 points. Week 24 ranking: 3.
#1 Nashville Predators: The Predators are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games. They are on a mission to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals and win it all. Pekka Rinne recorded his eighth shutout of the season last Monday Night against the Buffalo Sabres on the road in a 4-0 win.
Rinne made 35 saves in that game and he could be the favorite to win the Vezina. His record so far this season is 40-11-4 with a .928 save percentage and a 2.27 GAA.
Nashville leads all defenseman in the NHL with 188 points (including Samuel Girard, 185 not including him). The Predators have a 51 goal differential, which is the third best in the NHL (243 goals scored/192 goals given up). Nashville's record so far this season is 48-16-11 with 107 points. Week 24 ranking: 2.